Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homecoming 2012

Origins of the Tradition

Alumni of the early years
On an October evening in 2002, heavy grey clouds appeared on the horizon marking the start of what would be an early, but ultimately mild winter. As the first snowflakes began to fall, many wondered--would there be a homecoming parade? Would there be a tent city? Would the weather be a factor in Saturday’s Football game?

Of course, these questions were distant concerns for a group of friends: alumni of the early years of MSU Crew who were working in Murray. They were gathering for a semi-weekly tradition of feasting upon homemade salsa and chips, and an entrée of seasoned pork medallions on pasta. And there was wine—oh yes, there was wine.
As our bacchanalian revels escalated, we became aware of another gathering across the way; one that—by comparison—would have made the wine god proud. It was at a neighbors’ house and its attendees were as many as they were old: Murray State Alumni and Football fans whose zeal for Homecoming fellowship and strong drink was unchecked by the tides of age.

In the aftermath of our own Friday night, a big notion cut through the tedium of a “recovery weekend.” When our hair grays and our bellies sag, will we still celebrate the friendships that were forged when once we rowed? With yellowing diplomas hanging for half a century on our study walls, will we still care about our teammates from years ago?

We needed a proper gathering of rowers—old and new—to mark the occasion of Murray State’s Homecoming Weekend.

The Homecoming Cup

Coach McLean brought to us worldliness and great knowledge of boatsmanship
 In 2003, a new head coach was hired to oversee both the men’s and women’s programs—bringing considerable experience and organization to teams that were in need of coherent leadership. Meeting Bill McLean was like meeting an old friend for the first time; he won over alumni of the old guard with his vision for a unified rowing club and his interest in cultivating the relationships among current and former club members.

With Coach McLean’s blessing, former Women’s Team Head Coach, Dan Lavit and former team Assistant to the Regional Manager, Michael Moode rallied a contingency of several dozen Alumni to face off against the Varsity and Novice 8s in 500m sprints on the morning of Saturday, October 11. The first race for the coveted Homecoming Cup was won by the Alumni—an auspicious beginning to an annual tradition of proving that age and treachery will always defeat youth and ability.

Members of Generation I, 
 Homecoming 2003: (left to right) 
Susan, Bill, Michael, Brian, Wendy, and Jennifer

In the evening following the race, alumni, varsity, and novices came together for a celebratory meal (Louisiana low boil prepared by Coach McLean). Honors and awards were presented and the team reflected upon its past and its future. Then, the varsity and the novices were given fresh diapers and tucked into bed--each receiving from their alumni big brothers and sisters, a kiss on the forehead and the promise that one day--if they work hard enough--they would become big and strong enough to be actual contenders in the sport of rowing. After this, Alumni continued late into the evening with music, dancing, games, more stories. And there was wine-oh yes, there was wine. 

In the years that followed, our Homecoming gatherings have been highlighted by a variety of surprises; from impromptu concerts, to late night croquet tournaments, to streaking, to delicious, maudlin drama. For many it has become a singular event; the anticipation of which rivals the coming of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Punxsutawney Phil.

Alumni, Varsity, and Novice at the 2011 homecoming banquet

Rules of the Race


 Entry and Eligibility 

  1. Must be a current Murray State University student or alumni.
  2. Must be a current member of Racer Rowing; or a former member in good standing
  3. Only alumni may compete in an alumni boat. 
  4. Varsity or novice rowers may compete in a varsity boat; however, once a novice rower competes as varsity he or she must compete as varsity for the remainder of the day.
  5. If any varsity rowers are in a boat, the boat will be considered varsity; a boat is only considered novice if every participant (including the coxswain) has rowed for less than two seasons.


  1. Women's Open 8+ 500m
  2. Men's Open 8+ 500m
  3. Mixed 8+ 500m (at least 4 rowers must be women)


  1. There will be at least 3 heats for the first two events (Women's Open 8+ 500m and Men's Open 8+ 500m). The team (i.e., Alumni, Varsity, or Novice) that wins the most heats, wins the event. In the unlikely event of a three way tie, there must be at least one final race to break the tie).
  2. If by the end of the first two events no one team has won the day (e.g, the Women's Varsity wins event #1 and the Men's Alumni win event #2), the tie must be settled by the winner of event #3.
  3. There will be 1 heat for event #3--winner take all. Mixed boats must have at least 4 female rowers.
  4. The Redemption Round--If there is a 3rd event, a mixed novice boat may compete and is eligible to win the Homecoming Cup Trophy (shame upon us all should Alumni and Varsity ever allow this to happen).

Modifications to the Rules

Rules for competition will be settled upon at least one day before the race by the Director of Rowing (Matt Weaver) and the President of the Racer Rowing Society (To be decided in a secret and mystical ritual performed at some point before the weekend of the race).

The Trophy

Rachel with the coveted Homecoming Cup Trophy

The Homecoming Cup Trophy is awarded to the team that wins events #1 (Women's Open 8+) and #2 (Men's Open 8+ 500m); or, the team that wins event #3 (Mixed 8+ 500m) if no team wins both of the first two events. To date, the Alumni have won the Homecoming Cup 4 times (2003, 2009, 2010, 2011); the Varsity have won 5 times (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008). Editor's note, the official outcome of the 2006 race is a subject of great contention. See here.

The trophy was donated by Michael S. Moode in 2005. Following each race, the team that wins the trophy is to place within some kind of priceless treasure to remain in the box for all eternity. Objects placed in the box include a tortilla chip from Los Portales, a plastic spoon, a cigarette, a condom, a Cabin CD, and other ephemera.


This Year's Event

Michael and Dan (Kenlake; Summer, 2007)
The 2012 Homecoming Cup marks the tenth year since a group of friends first realized the need for this important annual tradition. Be in Murray on the evening of Friday, October 12 for pre-race day shenanigans. The Alumni vs. Varsity race will be in the morning of Saturday, October 13. Later that evening there will be a catered banquet (attendees will be asked to make a minimum donation to the team). Later still, there will be post-race shenanigans. On the morning of Sunday, October 14 friends visiting from out of town will meet for breakfast before heading home. Specific details, times, and locations will be posted via Facebook invitation! Make sure that you are Facebook friends with The Racer Rowing Society!

1 comment:

  1. Prominently re-posted on the front page per Big Papa Lavit's request.